The Amazing Health Benefits of Yams

Have you enjoyed a bowl of yams lately? If not, you may be missing out. Discover the many health benefits of yams

It may be the most underappreciated vegetable at the supermarket. Yams aren’t the first vegetable most people consider when planning their produce purchases. This earthy tasting vegetable is often passed up for the ever popular sweet potato; but yams shouldn’t be delegated to playing second fiddle to the “other” orange vegetable. This versatile veggie has a variety of health benefits which give them a deserving spot at the dinner table.

Many people confuse yams with sweet potatoes and the confusion is only increased by the USDA’s requirement that yams be marked with the words sweet potato on the label. In reality, yams and sweet potatoes are not even in the same family and aren’t botanically related. Yams probably originated in Africa and are still grown primarily in tropical regions of the world.

It’s not common to find one of the over two hundred varieties of yams on produce stands in this country unless you happen to go to an international food market. Most so called “yams” in the produce aisles of grocery stores are actually sweet potatoes, although canned yams can be found at many stores. Canned yams rise in popularity during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays as people buy them to prepare the popular dish candied yams. What are the health benefits of yams?

Health Benefits of Yams: They Help to Control Blood Sugar
Yams are rich in fiber and low on the glycemic index scale. This means yams help to moderate blood sugar levels by preventing the rapid insulin spike that occurs after eating foods that are high in carbohydrates. A single cup of yams supplies almost a fifth of a day’s requirement for fiber. Because of their high fiber content, yams are quite filling and eating them may help with weight control. A full cup of this high fiber vegetable has only 157 calories – higher than most green vegetables, but more filling and satisfying. Because they’re lower in carbs, they’re a good substitute for white potatoes.

Health Benefits of Yams: They May Improve Heart Health
Yams are high in soluble fiber which helps to reduce cholesterol levels naturally, thereby lowering the risk of heart disease. They’re also a good source of B6, a vitamin that’s closely associated with heart health. The other way they help to protect the heart is by supplying the body with a good source of potassium to regulate blood pressure. In fact, a single cup of yams supplies about a quarter of the day’s potassium requirements. Yams also contain a special protein called Dioscorin that inhibits the same enzyme that the group of blood pressure lowering medications known as ACE inhibitors do.

Health Benefits of Yams: Other Benefits
Wild yams are a source of natural chemicals called diosgenins that have activity similar to that of the hormone progesterone. Wild yam extract is sometimes marketed as being helpful for relief of menopausal symptoms, although there’s not enough evidence to support its use for this purpose. Several studies have shown that wild yam has no benefit in treating menopausal symptoms.

Health Benefits of Yams: The Bottom Line?
Don’t reserve yams for holidays only. Enjoy their earthy taste and their health benefits year round.

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